Bruins

The elite Bruins team is off to a great start, and they're going to need every bit of it

The elite Bruins team is off to a great start, and they're going to need every bit of it

The Bruins know that things like fatigue, and “the wall” they are inevitably going to hit, will be waiting for them in the second half of the regular season.

It’s just a byproduct of playing an extra 24 games last season and sporting a roster with so many key players that have already crossed over into their 30’s and 40’s, and it’s something the Bruins are fully expecting to happen.

That means it was incumbent on the Black and Gold to build up as many points as possible in the early portions of the season when their skating legs were fresh, and they could perhaps take advantage of less rust gathered after playing high-intensity hockey into the middle of June. The Bruins are doing exactly that according to plan right now after dispatching the New Jersey Devils by a 3-0 score in Saturday night’s home opener at TD Garden.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means from the Bruins, and certainly the hapless nature of a Devils team off to an 0-3-2 start to the regular season would indicate that Jersey is having some early issues this year.

But the Bruins rode their power with goals from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and they rode their depth with a score from fourth liner Joakim Nordstrom in his second game from an injury that sidelined him the entire preseason.

They also rode their No. 1 goaltender with Tuukka Rask making 31 saves in his first shutout of the season while showing zero issues after his dehydration issues in Vegas. In other words, the Bruins are once again an extremely well-rounded hockey team this season that’s going to be among the best in the Atlantic Division, and in the NHL.

We knew that going into the year based on last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, but the Bruins are leaving no doubt with an excellent start even though they are far from clicking on all cylinders right now.

“I don’t think we’ve stolen a lot of points here. Our goaltending has been solid; we knew that coming in. Two veteran, professional guys, so our D corps intact. We have two guys (Kevan Miller, John Moore) injured going into this season; we knew that, but the other guys have given us some chemistry, so we know that defensive part of our game,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s the offensive part we’ve been working on. [We’re working on] a little chemistry up front. You start to see that come around. It was good enough to win the first two games, barely, but good enough.

“Now, you’re starting to see a little more up and down the lineup, guys creating. I think we’re full value for our record, but I do believe that our exits out of our zone have to pick up. We have to be cleaner with our managing the puck, and then some second chances around the net for some of the other lines to get rewarded. I think Krejci’s line did more of that [in] the last two games, unfortunately one got called back [on video review] so not quite there. But they’ve been getting better in that area, so it’d be nice to see them get rewarded for their work.”

The Bruins are once again rolling out an extremely top-heavy team in the early going of the season when it comes to scoring. After Danton Heinen and Brett Ritchie accounted for the offense on opening night, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak have been responsible for seven of the 10 goals scored over the last four games for the Bruins.

Expecting the top line to provide 70 percent of the offense obviously isn’t going to be sustainable for the Black and Gold. It was an issue at times last season and once again it will be a challenge for Cassidy and Don Sweeney to diversify the offense. But holding those top line players capable of shouldering a heavy offensive burden automatically makes them better than a good 50 percent of the league, and that has been plainly obvious over the first two weeks of the regular season.

“The first few games were a little bit sloppy, but I think we’re beginning to figure it out now,” said Marchand. “We’re kind of getting back in sync. It was a little bit of a different training camp and a different feel because we all didn’t play as many games as we normally do. But we’re feeling good now. It helps when you win and luckily we’ve been able to do that a bit.”

It also helps that both Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been lights out to start the season as well. After two weeks of regular season action, the Bruins are second in the NHL in goals allowed (1.60) per game and second in the league with a .952 save percentage. Essentially their goaltending also gives them an advantage over at least 70 percent of the rest of the league.

“We’re still working on our game like every other team, and I thought that’s where Tuukka [Rask] really stepped up and that’s when he should get the credit,” said Cassidy. “In a game like this, I thought that’s when he earned his paycheck. We broke down a lot there. Trying to break pucks out and had some loose play, and he was really good.”

That elite level goaltending for the Bruins is why they may not drop into an extended slump through this entire season. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why the B’s may sidestep some of that second half “wall” they are anticipating while coming off their run to a heartbreaking Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins may not be blowing people away right now with their level of play, and they are certainly not clicking on all cylinders at this young point in the season. The B’s are showing that they are once again top caliber in the NHL this season, and they are doing what they absolutely need to do by getting off to a strong start to what’s going to be a long, taxing 82-game marathon for them.

Bruins third line still looking for chemistry, offense in early going>>>

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Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron the only bright spot in brutal Bruins loss

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Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron the only bright spot in brutal Bruins loss

GOLD STAR: Anthony Duclair toiled with the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets after some solid initial success in the desert with a 20-goal season on his resume, but it feels like the 24-year-old is enjoying a second life with the Ottawa Senators.

Duclair finished with a pair of goals and three points against the Bruins on Monday night and was making things happen pretty much every time he was on the ice. Duclair finished with two goals, three points, a plus-3 rating, six shots on net and five giveaways in his 16-plus minutes of ice time. Duclair’s first goal of the night gave the Senators a 2-0 lead and essentially put the Bruins deep in the hole before he iced things at the very end with an empty netter.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug finished a minus-3 with just a single shot on net, and it could have been even worse if he hadn’t jumped off the ice just before Ottawa scored the first goal of the game in the first period. As it was, Krug had five shot attempts that were either blocked or missed their target and didn’t have enough offensively to help push along the Bruins power play when they really needed to do their damage.

Later on in the game Krug had some defensive issues as well and was among a number of Bruins players that finished with some pretty rough plus/minus numbers including Jake DeBrusk (minus-4), David Krejci (minus-3) and Brett Ritchie (minus-2).

TURNING POINT: The Bruins got a goal from Patrice Bergeron toward the end of the first period to halve Ottawa’s lead and went into the first intermission with a decent chance at winning the game. But then the Bruins came out and gave up a goal in the first two minutes of the second period and essentially let things slip through their fingers at that point. It was a botched play from Tuukka Rask, who attempted to play a puck behind the Boston net and just threw the puck to Vladislav Namestnikov, who set up Chris Tierney for the eventual game-winning goal.

It typified the gift goals that the Bruins gave them on the evening and made it clear it wasn’t going to be their night.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron missed the previous seven games with a lower-body injury and returned to be one of the best players on the ice for either team. Certainly, he was the best player on the ice for the Bruins after scoring a first period goal that got the Bruins in the game.

Bergeron finished with six shots on net, 10 shot attempts and 16-of-25 face-off wins to go along with a blocked shot in 21:43 of ice time. It would appear that Bergeron didn’t have any ill effects from the injury and was fully ready to take on a regular, intense workload after coming back from the injury. The only good news of the night was how good Bergeron looked in his return from injury.

BY THE NUMBERS: 38 – the number of saves for Anders Nilsson, who was a massive factor for the Senators shutting down the Boston power play when it really mattered and holding the Bruins to just two goals on 40 shots.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He’s a true hero...he inspired us all with everything he did...we're going to miss him dearly." –Torey Krug to reporters on the passing of Bruins fan and ALS awareness advocate Pete Frates, who courageously inspired so many during his fight with ALS before succumbing to it this week.

HAGGERTY: Is complacency the only thing that can derail Bruins?>>>

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NHL Highlights: Bruins suffer second straight regulation loss vs. lowly Senators

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NHL Highlights: Bruins suffer second straight regulation loss vs. lowly Senators

FINAL SCORE: Senators 5, Bruins 2

IN BRIEF: The Bruins put forth a subpar effort against the Senators, sleepwalking through most of the game en route to a second straight loss. The silver lining for the team was that Patrice Bergeron scored in his first game back after missing seven straight games with an injury.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 20-5-6 (46 points)

HIGHLIGHTS

ANISIMOV OPENS THE OTTAWA SCORING QUICKLY

B'S ALLOW EASY GOAL TO ANTHONY DUCLAIR

BERGERON CUTS THE LEAD IN HALF OFF FEED FROM PASTRNAK

BRUINS ALLOW ANOTHER MIND-BOGGLING GOAL

PAGEAU'S EMPTY-NET GOAL PUTS THINGS SEEMINGLY OUT OF REACH

JAKE DEBRUSK'S LATE GOAL

UP NEXT:
@ Washington Capitals, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network

HAGGERTY: Is complacency the only thing that can derail Bruins?>>>

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